Airport chapel serves evacuees, relief workers|
by Lt. Col. Mike Pierson
Joint Task Force-Katrina Public Affairs
9/13/2005 - NEW ORLEANS (AFPN) -- Chaplain (Capt.) Dan Thompson admits he has never preached from an airline podium before.
Then again, many aspects about the massive relief effort going on at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport are a first.
The Air Force chaplain from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., was joined by Army chaplains to conduct the first chapel service held at the airport since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans on Aug. 29.
“It’s kind of like a holy huddle at the end of a rough week,” said Army Sgt. Carlos Ignacio, a military policeman from the California National Guard who has been assisting the chaplains during his deployment. The 22 military and civilian worshipers who attended the Sept. 11 service “became an instant family for those of us who left our families back home,” he said.
Army Chaplain (Capt.) Erik Spicer has been ministering to some of the more than 25,000 people who have evacuated the city through the airport. Establishing Sunday worship services allowed believers to connect with each other and with their faith, said Chaplain Spicer who is deployed from Fort Bragg, N.C.
“When you have seen so much hurt, it’s amazing how people connect to and uplift each other,” he said.
At the end of concourse C where U.S. Airways passengers once boarded, Chaplain Thompson led prayers for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that happened four years ago.
One of four Air Force chaplains stationed here, Chaplain Thompson also prayed for God to “knit back together the city that weathered the storm,” and to help all those who lost family, friends and possessions in the hurricane.
Looking out floor-to-ceiling windows at military aircraft and relief vehicles moving about the bustling airport, the worshipers sang, prayed and listed to Chaplain Spicer’s sermon.
“We all come from different backgrounds, but we are all here to make a difference,” Chaplain Spicer said. “We take the skills we developed for combat and are using them to help our fellow man.”
After the 45 -minute service, Chaplains Spicer and Thompson, along with Sergeant Ignacio and Army Pfc. David Hamlin, said the operation has allowed each of them, and people they have encountered, to grow stronger in their faith.
“Faith without deeds is dead,” Private Hamlin said. He noted how many citizens of New Orleans he has seen come into the airport “with that 1,000-mile stare; then they find out they’re getting help and they leave here with a smile on their face.”